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Japan topple Black Sticks in opening round

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/03/2017

Japan have claimed first blood at the Festival of Hockey women's tournament in Hastings following an upset 2-1 win over New Zealand.

A late goal sunk the defending champion Black Sticks, who drop to last place after the first of six rounds following a 1-1 opening draw between Australia and the United States.

World No.11 Japan are the lowest-ranked team at the four-nation event but they more than held their own against the fifth-ranked hosts.

An early Japanese lead was maintained until halftime before Brooke Neal's goal from a low drag-flick levelled proceedings.

New Zealand's defence was prised open for a second time with two minutes remaining.

Earlier, Madi Ratcliffe bagged the equaliser after fourth-ranked Australia had trailed the US 1-0 at halftime. Alyssa Parker struck early for the sixth-ranked Americans.

Japan and the US meet on Saturday, followed by a trans-Tasman showdown.

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